Story and photo courtesy of Abilene Christian Athletics
ABILENE, Texas - Sophomore defensive end Nick Richardson had six of his team's nine sacks as 10th-ranked Abilene Christian University introduced McMurry University to NCAA Division II with a 51-0 win in both teams' season opener Saturday night in Shotwell Stadium.
Richardson's six sacks tied the ACU record set by James Henderson in 1997, and led a Wildcat defense that held McMurry to 301 total yards, all but 12 yards of it through the air, broke up six passes and recovered a fumble. Warhawk quarterback Jake Mullin completed 37 of 59 passes for 289 yards, and was intercepted once. His counterpart, preseason NCAA Division II player of the year Mitchell Gale, completed 19 of 28 passes for 290 yards and one TD in three quarters of play.
Both teams played a scoreless first quarter before a crowd of 11,337, but ACU scored on seven straight possessions to start the second quarter. Charcandrick West's 13-yard run, redshirt freshman Travis Tarver's 2-yard dive and a 9-yard pass from quarterback Gale to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel powered the Wildcats to a 21-0 halftime lead.
ACU opened the second-half scoring with a 25-yard field goal from Morgan Lineberry. The Wildcats' next drive was a short one, thanks to McMurry turning the ball over on downs at its own 10-yard line. Two plays later, Gabriel scored on a 7-yard end-around. ACU scored on its next drive when Marcel Threat ran 12 yards for a TD, and tacked on another TD with Tarver's 5-yard run at the end of the third quarter. Threat, a sophomore transfer from Central Arkansas, scored his second rushing TD with a 12-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats rolled up 461 yards of offense, helped by Gabriel's seven catches for 108 yards and Threat's 88 yards of rushing. Tarver caught two passes for 54 yards and ran nine times for 38 yards. Darian Hogg had four catches for 50 yards.
ACU's 51 was the second most points scored by the Wildcats in a season-opener since they beat McMurry 53-20 in 1971, and their first shutout since a 21-0 blanking of Eastern New Mexico in 2006.
McMurry and ACU last played 41 years ago, but the cross-town rivalry featured 39 games from 1930-71, with ACU holding a 24-15 edge. The Warhawks are playing their first year in Division II, while the Wildcats are starting their last before a move in 2013 to the Division I FCS-affiliated Southland Conference.
The Wildcats -- who won their fifth straight season-opener -- host longtime Lone Star Conference rival Texas A&M-Kingsville next Saturday at 6 p.m.